Centre for Road Safety

Protect your head

Bicycle riders are required by law to wear an approved helmet securely fitted and fastened. In NSW there are no exemptions from wearing an approved bicycle helmet. 

Research conducted by the University of NSW in 2016 involving 64,000 injured cyclists found helmet use was associated with about a 50 per cent reduction in head injuries of any severity, about a 70 per cent reduction in serious head injuries and 65 per cent reduction in fatal head injuries. A bicycle helmet that is not correctly fitted and fastened does not provide enough protection in a crash.

Helmet standard

Approved bicycle helmets have stickers or labels certifying that they meet the Australian and New Zealand standard (AS/NZS 2063) and have passed stringent safety tests. Helmets manufactured after 31 March 2011 must have an identifying mark from a body accredited or approved by the Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand (JAS-ANZ) certifying compliance with the above standard.

Accreditation

Accredited companies that certify bicycle helmets can be found on the JAS-ANZ website. As of October 2012, the following labels indicate that the helmet is an approved helmet and meets the Australian and New Zealand Standard (AS/NZ 2063):

  • BSI
  • Global-Mark
  • SAI Global
  • AUS

Accreditation logos

Correct helmet fit

Always wear a helmet when you ride and make sure you fit the helmet correctly.

  • The helmet should fit comfortably and securely when the straps are fastened
  • The straps should not be twisted, nor cover the ears. When done up correctly, the straps should provide a snug fit over the ears and under the chin.
  • Choose a bright coloured helmet so other road users can see you.

Is your helmet properly adjusted?

Can you place just two fingers between your eyebrows and your helmet?Do the straps join in a ‘V’ just below your ears?Do the straps join in a ‘V’ just below your ears?
Allow two fingers between your eyebrows and your helmet.Ensure the straps join in a ‘V’ just below your ears.Allow two fingers between the helmet strap and your chin.

Replace your helmet if:

  • It’s been dropped onto a hard surface or involved in a crash or severe fall
  • You see any cracks in the foam
  • The straps look worn or frayed

Clothing

To make it easier for other road users to see you, wear bright or light coloured clothing during the day and reflective clothing at night. If you have no reflective gear for night riding, a plain white top is the next best thing. Footwear that fully encloses the toes and heel helps protect your feet and may also provide pedal grip.

Cycling gloves may help protect your hands, keep your fingers warm in winter and reduce jarring. If you do wear gloves, make sure you can still operate your brakes, gears and bell.

Don’t forget water, sun block and sunglasses - even on cloudy days.

Lights and reflectors

If you ride at night or in hazardous weather conditions, you must display all of the following:

  • A steady or flashing white light on the front of the bike that is visible for at least 200 metres
  • A steady or flashing red light on the rear of the bike that is visible for at least 200 metres
  • A red reflector on the rear of the bike that is visible for at least 50 metres when illuminated by a vehicle’s headlight on low beam

Good quality lights and reflectors will increase your visibility on the road. Light emitting diode (LED) lights are extremely bright and require less energy to power, making your batteries last longer.

Traditional incandescent lights require regular bulb changes and may not be as bright as LED lights. Human powered bicycle lights do not require batteries, but most will not operate without you physically pedalling. This means that when you're stopped, you could be difficult to see.

It's best to seek expert advice on lights and reflectors to suit your needs. Pedal and wheel reflectors increase your visibility to other road users. By law, you must have your lights on between sunset and sunrise and in bad weather.

Horns and bells

Your bike must be fitted with a working horn or bell to help sound a warning to other cyclists or pedestrians.

Brakes

Your bike must be fitted with at least one working brake.

Tyres

Tyres should be appropriate to the size of your bicycle and inflated to the pressure as listed on the tyre wall. If you need to replace your tyre or tyre tube, you should purchase a replacement that matches the original. If you're unsure of which tyre or tube to choose, consult your local bicycle shop.

Choose the right bicycle

There are four main categories of bicycles:

  • Road bike
  • Hybrid
  • Mountain bike
  • BMX

A road bike is suitable for riding on the road, while a hybrid bike is good for multipurpose use. Mountain bikes are best for off-road use and BMX bikes are designed for off-road courses and stunts.

Choose the right size

To choose the best size bicycle, stand over the bicycle with your feet firmly on the ground and measure the distance between the bicycle frame and your crotch. There should be a clearance of about 3cm for a road or hybrid bicycle and 10cm for a BMX or mountain bike. If you're unable to put both heels on the ground when doing this test, the bicycle is too big for you. The bicycle will be unsafe and uncomfortable.

Custom-made bicycles

If you decide to make your own bicycle using specialised or modified parts, or you modify your bicycle with better parts, you should consult a qualified bicycle mechanic to ensure your bicycle is safe before you ride. Aim for quality parts that have been manufactured to Australian Standards identified by an Australian Standards sticker. Some bicycle parts including brakes, gears, handlebars and forks may need to be calibrated by a qualified bicycle mechanic. Check with your local bicycle store for more advice.

Comfortable riding

It’s important that bicycle riders feel comfortable when riding their bike. This will ensure a safer and more enjoyable journey.

Adjust your seat

  • Seat positioning is important for both stability and comfort. If the seat height is too low, you could experience sore knees.
  • Position your seat at a height that allows you to bend your knee slightly when your leg is in its most extended position.
  • Always check your seat is properly secure before going out on a ride - particularly after making any changes.

Adjust your handlebars

Well-adjusted handlebars will allow you to confidently mount, start off, steer, pedal, balance, ring the bell and stop. Handlebars can be adjusted on most bicycles and should be adjusted so that your arms are slightly bent and your body leans forward between the handlebars and the seat. The handlebars should be far enough forward so you can balance your body weight between the handlebars and the seat. Too much pressure on the seat can cause back pain, while too much pressure on the handlebars can cause neck, shoulder and wrist pain. After any adjustments, and before you go out riding, always check that your handlebars are secure.

Using the pedals

For maximum comfort, wear shoes with flexible soles and ensure the widest part of your foot is over the pedal axle. Stiff soled shoes can make your feet sore. Wearing cycling shoes with cleats will also ensure centralised pressure on the pedals.